It didn't need this.
I was having tea and angel-food cake on Beacon Street when the bombs detonated. We were having such a "lively" meeting that we didn't hear the two blasts a few blocks away. (We'd ignored an earthquake during a previous meeting.) We didn't hear the news for more than an hour. By the time we tore ourselves away from the TV to walk home, the streets were closing and hundreds of dazed, exhausted runners and their entourages were walking down the center of Marlborough Street, wrapped in mylar blankets and trash bags for warmth, unsure of where they were going.
The residential streets of Back Bay are never crowded. You normally see just a few people at a time, even on Marathon Day.
I could describe my reaction but, chances are, you know it. You've been there; we all have, now. We all remember 911. We all become one family on days like this; we're in it together. We feel collectively sad, furious, puzzled, shaken, unsettled, and distraught. We grieve. We wonder who did it and why. We think about the victims and their families and all that unnecessary suffering and waste. We relive Manhattan, and Newtown, and Oklahoma City. We watch too much news on TV.
There will be others who will give eye-witness accounts and explore what happened with eloquence and insight. I'll just tell you how it was around here.
It was a beautiful spring day. And then all we heard were sirens and helicopters and then the quiet chatter of displaced runners filled the air. The streets were closed, so traffic disappeared. The birds kept singing, and the magnolias kept trying to bloom, and there was a chill in the air that suddenly felt more like evil than like April. We were told to go home and stay off the streets, and to avoid crowds. So we watched TV, staring numbly in disbelief at our own familiar streets and stores and pavements, just around the corner. Transformed by blood, debris, and horror.
When a tragedy or disaster happens in your own neighborhood, you quickly find out who worries about you. Facebook is a godsend because you can quickly reassure lots of people around the world.
As I was watching the news, wondering what I might possibly do to help, a friend called to say she'd been evacuated from her apartment on Boylston Street and had nowhere to go. So we hosted a refugee for a few hours, until other friends called and told her about a sneaky way to get back into her building, locked down as part of the crime scene. She made it back in and isn't leaving unless she's forced to.
I hate being told to stay inside so I went for a walk. Back Bay looked like the crime scene it is, with yellow and red tape stretched across abandoned streets, policemen and flashing blue lights at each intersection, and brightly lit clusters of journalists and photographers. Almost everyone else was home watching the news, but dogs still needed to be walked and people needed smoke on their porches.
Tomorrow we'll wake up not remembering this and then it will hit us all over again. My lovely little neighborhood, filled with blood, broken glass, and fear. Nothing will be quite the same again here, as nothing was the same after 911 and Newtown. But somehow, it's all the same, isn't it? And it's so damned wrong.
A media cluster on the Commonwealth Avenue mall. Ruining the grass.
Forget walking on Newbury or Boylston Streets.
I don't usually see Anderson Cooper on my evening strolls.
Or giant American flags.